Sunday Morning Sabermetrics: The Bill James Game Score for Pitchers

Image Credit: baseball-reference.com

The Bill James Game Score for starting pitchers is a game-by-game statistic that rates starting pitchers on their performances one start at a time. Game scores can be tracked over the course of a season to determine which starting pitcher in the rotation was the most consistently effective. Bill James, special advisor on baseball operations to the Boston Red Sox and father of sabermetrics, developed the statistic.

The Game Score is easy to calculate:

·      Start with 50 points

·      Add 1 point for each out recorded

·      Add 2 points for each inning completed after the 4th

·      Add 1 point for each strikeout

·      Subtract 2 points for each hit allowed

·      Subtract 4 for each ER allowed

·      Subtract 2 for each unearned R allowed

·      Subtract 1 for BB

 

One of the greatest aspects of the game score is that it is used on an individual game basis rather than entire seasons or parts of entire seasons. We can use the game score to evaluate our own starting pitchers on their performances right here at Big Train. At the end of this document is the complete spreadsheet of all 2016 Big Train pitchers’ starts, complete with scores, stat lines, pitcher game scores, and team season totals.

Before we cover some of the Big Train pitchers most dominant outings this season, it is important to note a few disclaimers regarding the game score. First and foremost, the game score is for the starting pitcher of the game. It does not apply to pitchers when they make appearances out of the bullpen. Also, the game score draws on previous sabermetrics articles from earlier in the summer. It penalizes the pitcher for allowing unearned runs, because the only numbers that really matter are those in the “R” column on the scoreboard at the end of nine innings, and that “R” column does not care if the runs were earned or not.

The game score gives bonuses for completing innings, beginning once that pitcher completes the fifth inning and qualifies for the win. Getting two outs in the seventh inning is not nearly as valuable as completing the seventh inning, with a clean slate for the bullpen to work with six outs remaining to get, for example. It also rewards pitchers for strikeouts. Strikeouts are more valuable than outs on balls in play, as strikeouts do not rely on the defensive skills of the fielders behind the pitcher. Furthermore, there is a penalty for walking hitters.

 

Note that all Big Train stats below are up to date as of the morning of Sunday, July 17th.

The best start of the year thus far for the Big Train, going by Bill James’ game score, as outlined in the spreadsheet, was southpaw Johnny York (St. Mary’s Calif.) on June 19th against Vienna, a superb 76. York in that game went 7 innings and gave up 3 hits, one unearned run, no earned runs, no walks, and struck out seven. York’s game score of 76 is calculated as follows:

Start with 50 points

Add 1 point for each out recorded (7IP*3 outs per inning = 21 outs)

Add 2 points for each inning completed after the 4th (3*2 = 6 bonus points)

Add 1 point for each strikeout (7K)

Subtract 2 points for each hit allowed (3 hits*2 = penalty of 6)

Subtract 2 points for each unearned run (1 unearned run = penalty of 2)

50 + 21 + 6 + 7 – 6 – 2 = 76.

Johnny York has the highest average game score of all Big Train starters, averaging a score of 66 across four starts (76 on June 19th, 68 on June 25th, 63 on June 30th, 57 on July 8th). Behind York are right-handers Sean Barry (San Diego), Logan Gilbert (Stetson), and Drew Strotman (St. Mary’s Calif.). All four of these pitchers made the Cal Ripken League South Division All-Star team this season, deservedly so noting the consistency they each display with every start. Each night one of these four laudable pitchers takes the mound, the Big Train has a chance to win.

Sean Barry: 62.2 average over five starts (61 on June 7th, 61 on June 12th, 60 on June 18th, 61 on June 26th, 68 on July 14th).

Logan Gilbert: 61.75 average over four starts (65 on June 17th, 58 on June 23rd, 63 on July 1st, 61 on July 7th).

Drew Strotman: 54.67 average over six starts (59 on June 13th, 55 on June 20th, 68 on June 27th, 60 on July 3rd, 19 on July 9th, 67 on July 15th).

 

Below is the link to the complete list of 2016 Big Train game scores, as well as game results, team seasonal statistics, and MLB case studies (also available at the end of the article):

https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B1dQpr4zo3GyZ0d5UzJWVWNIaW8/view?usp=sharing

 

 

Washington Nationals fans undoubtedly remember the outstanding performance Max Scherzer (WSH) turned in at Citi Field on October 3rd of last year, when he fired his second no-hitter of the season. That game was a no-hit, no-run, no-walk, nine complete innings, 17 strikeout effort, good for a game score of 104. To put that 104 in perspective, Don Larsen’s (NYY) perfect game against the Brooklyn Dodgers in the 1956 World Series was 10 points inferior at 94. Dallas Braden’s (OAK) perfect game on Mother’s Day 2010 was a 93. Roy Halladay’s (PHI) perfect game twenty days later that season was a 98. Many baseball analysts consider Scherzer’s second no-no of 2015 the most dominant pitching performance ever, and his game score that night puts the outing in elite company.

 

Previous Sunday Morning Sabermetrics Articles:

June 5th: Pythagorean W-L: http://bigtrain.org/news/?article_id=340

June 12th: Wins Above Replacement: http://bigtrain.org/news/?article_id=353

June 19th: OBP/SLG/OPS/OPS+: http://bigtrain.org/news/?article_id=367

June 26th: BABIP, ISO, and wOBA: http://bigtrain.org/news/?article_id=381

July 1st: SecA, RC, and wRC+: http://bigtrain.org/news/?article_id=393

July 10th: ERA+, RA9, and FIP: http://bigtrain.org/news/?article_id=410

 

Up Next: July 24th – oStr and zBall – we turn to sabermetrics for catchers, two basic stats that involve the catcher’s ability to present pitches for the umpire and buy his pitcher strikes that may have gone for balls if not for the catcher’s ability to receive the pitch and sell it to the umpire. For this article, we will revert back to Major League Baseball games and evaluate big league catchers, since the Cal Ripken League is too small a sample size to be able to accurately evaluate catchers on their performance and conclude which ones in our league are superior defensively.

 

Below is the link to the complete list of 2016 Big Train game scores, as well as game results, team seasonal statistics, and MLB case studies:

https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B1dQpr4zo3GyZ0d5UzJWVWNIaW8/view?usp=sharing

 



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